Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

Polling location workers await a rush of lunchtime voters in the Georgia senate runoff election on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP) Polling location workers await a rush of lunchtime voters in the Georgia senate runoff election on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP)

Polling location workers await a rush of lunchtime voters in the Georgia senate runoff election on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP)

Gabrielle Settles
By Gabrielle Settles December 8, 2022
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman December 8, 2022

No evidence of armed patrols at Georgia voting sites

If Your Time is short

  • The day before the Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia, the New Black Panthers said they planned armed patrols of voting sites in the state. The group said it would conduct what it described as lawful "defense and security patrols."

  • Later, a New Black Panthers spokesperson said the group did patrol voting sites in Brunswick and Savannah, but did so unarmed.

  • Officials in multiple counties, the secretary of state’s office and voting rights groups said they received no reports of armed Black Panthers at voting sites on Election Day. We also found no news reports or video footage to support the claim.

Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who backed Republican Herschel Walker in his losing bid in the runoff for Georgia’s U.S. Senate seat, suggested that a group of armed Black Panthers tried to intimidate voters on Election Day.

"1 hour into voting, & armed groups of Black Panthers are now reportedly patrolling certain voting locations in GA," Loeffler tweeted Dec. 6. "Georgians, as we look further into these reports, do NOT be intimidated by the Left’s scare tactics. Don’t let them win. Make your voice heard for @HerschelWalker." 

The tweet has received more than 25,000 reactions. 

Loeffler’s tweet included a link to a report by WAGA-TV in Atlanta published the morning of Election Day that said the New Black Panther Party planned to send armed patrols to voting sites. The group had said at a press conference the day before that it would be monitoring for "white supremacist violence," according to the WAGA story.

When contacted by PolitiFact for comment, a Loeffler spokesperson pointed to a Dec. 5 press release from Black Lawyers for Justice, which said "the New Black Panther Party and other Black armed self-defense groups will conduct active lawful, defense and security patrols at the most sensitive polling sites in Georgia to ensure Black mothers are able to make their vote choice and not be targeted because of their race." The press release said the groups would patrol in Brunswick, Savannah, Atlanta and other areas.

However, the New Black Panther Party told PolitiFact it decided against armed patrols.

Ahmad Muhammad, national assistant to Malik Zulu Shabazz, the chairman of the New Black Panther Party, said the group’s members appeared at polling places in Savannah and Brunswick, but decided against carrying firearms because they didn’t want to deter voters.

"We try not to have anyone feel unsafe at the polling sites," Muhammad said. 

County officials in multiple counties, the secretary of state’s office and voting rights groups said they received no reports of armed Black Panthers at voting sites on Election Day. We also found no news reports or video footage to support the claim.

"If they were there, they were not noteworthy," said Christina Redden, assistant director of elections in Glynn County, which includes Brunswick. "We have deputies at every site — for the most part the deputies are outside. We definitely would have heard about it."

The Black Panthers formed in 1966, aiming to protect residents from police brutality. The organization developed a program built around direct food and health care services in poor communities, armed self-defense and political education that challenged core concepts of capitalism. The FBI dismantled the group through a national undercover operation

The party dissolved in 1982. But in 1989, the New Black Panther Party formed in Dallas. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified the New Black Panthers as a hate group based on its rhetoric. Muhammad disputes that label. The original Black Panthers have disavowed the New Black Panther Party, according to the SPLC.

We have fact-checked claims related to the New Black Panthers’ election-time actions for more than a decade. Days before Election Day in 2018, a few party members with semi-automatic style weapons walked around Atlanta’s West End neighborhood in what they called an "armed rally against voter suppression." 

No reports about armed people outside polls 

Election officials told PolitiFact that they received no reports that the New Black Panthers showed up armed at voting sites. 

"We didn’t actually get any complaints that I’m aware of," said Robert Sinners, a spokesperson for Georgia’s secretary of state.

Voting rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, Common Cause Georgia and Fair Fight Action also said they received no reports of armed Black Panthers.

County officials in Chatham County, which includes Savannah; Glynn County, which includes Brunswick; and election officials in Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties also said they received no reports of armed Black Panthers at voting sites.

A video reshared on the Facebook page of the New Black Panthers Party southern region shows a woman outside of the C.C. McCray City Auditorium, a polling precinct in Ware County, speaking about rules for voting. "You will be secure, you will be guarded," she said. But there are no firearms displayed in the video. When asked about the woman in the video, Muhammad said she was neither a party member nor affiliated with the group. 

Carlos Nelson, the Ware County elections supervisor, who was at that same precinct multiple times on Election Day, said he received no reports of any armed people or the New Black Panthers at voting sites.

"We had a quiet election — thank goodness," Nelson said. 

Though right-leaning websites and Twitter users claimed that a photo showed a group of armed Black Panthers on Election Day, the Daily Mail newspaper tweeted that the photo was taken in July 2020 at a protest of the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Carving east of Atlanta. 

Georgia law bans guns near voting sites 

If armed individuals had shown up near voting sites, that wouldn’t be illegal under Georgia law unless they stood too close to voters or intimidated them.

There are multiple state and federal laws prohibiting voter intimidation or guns at voting sites in Georgia. State law prohibits anyone other than a peace officer from possessing guns within 150 feet of a polling location when elections are being held.

Other state statutes prohibit the use of guns to intimidate other people, and the federal Voting Rights Act prohibits any attempt to "intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person from voting or attempting to vote."

Our ruling

Loeffler tweeted that on the day of the Dec. 6 runoff, "armed groups of Black Panthers" were "reportedly patrolling certain voting locations" in Georgia.

Loeffler referred to statements the group made the day before Election Day saying it planned to send armed patrols to voting sites. 

The New Black Panthers later said they showed up at voting sites in Brunswick and Savannah, but ultimately decided against armed patrols because they did not want to intimidate voters.

Officials in multiple counties, the secretary of state’s office and voting rights groups said they received no reports of armed Black Panthers at voting sites on Election Day. We also found no news reports or video footage to support the claim.

We rate this statement False. 

RELATED: Most states don’t explicitly ban guns at polls. Some lawmakers want to change that

RELATED: What Raphael Warnock's win means for Democrats' Senate advantage

PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird and PolitiFact reporter Yacob Reyes contributed to this article.

Our Sources

Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Tweet, Dec. 6, 2022

Giffords, Guns in Schools, Accessed Dec. 7, 2022

EIN Press Wire, Voter Intimidation Threats to be Countered by Organizers, Lawyers, and New Black Panther Party, Dec. 5, 2022

Fox News 5, Group to deploy armed guards near Georgia polling places during Senate runoff, Dec. 5, 2022

Gateway Pundit, Armed Black Panthers Are Reportedly Roaming Voting Locations In Georgia, Dec. 6, 2022

New Black Panther Party southern region, Facebook post, Dec. 5, 2022

Crystal Imamu, Facebook post, Dec. 6, 2022

Britannica, Black Panther Party, accessed Dec. 7, 2022

National Archives, The Black Panther Party, accessed Dec. 7, 2022

BlackPast, (1966) The Black Panther Party Ten Point Program, accessed Dec. 7, 2022

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Those pictures of New Black Panthers campaigning for Abrams are real, and they aren’t apologizing, Nov. 6, 2018

Southern Poverty Law Center, New Black Panther Party, Accessed Dec. 7, 2022

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Race Neutral Enforcement of the Law? The U.S. Department of Justice and the New Black Panther Party Litigation An Interim Report, 2011

PolitiFact, Giving water to voter within 150 feet of Georgia polling place is punishable by up to a year in jail, Nov. 7, 2022

PolitiFact, Pants on Fire claim: Armed Black Panthers on Atlanta streets on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018

PolitiFact, Rachel Maddow says Fox News 'said the New Black Panther Party decided the election for Barack Obama' Feb. 9, 2011

PolitiFact, O'Reilly blames Obama admin. for not pursuing criminal charges in New Black Panther Party case, July 23, 20210

Email interview, Robert Sinners, Georgia Secretary of State spokesperson, Dec. 7, 2022

Email interview, Regina Waller, Fulton County spokesperson, Dec. 7, 2022

Email interview, Deborah Tuff, Gwinnett County spokesperson, Dec. 7, 2022

Email interview, Erik Burton, DeKalb County spokesperson, Dec. 7, 2022

Email interview, Christina Redden, assistant director of elections in Glynn County, Dec. 7, 2022

Telephone and email interview, Carlos Nelson, Ware County supervisor of elections, Dec. 7, 2022

Text exchange, Janine Eveler, Cobb County director of elections and registration, Dec. 7, 2022

Telephone interview, Shanta Scarboro, deputy director of the Chatham County board of elections, Dec. 7, 2022

Email interview, Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, Dec. 7, 2022

Email interview, Rahul Garabadu, ACLU of Georgia, senior voting rights attorney, Dec. 7, 2022

Email interview, Xakota Espinoza, Fair Fight Action spokesperson, Dec. 7, 2022

Telephone interview and text exchange with Ahmad Muhammad, national assistant to Malik Zulu Shabazz, leader of the New Black Panther Party, Dec. 7, 2022

Daily Mail, Protesters defy Donald Trump and risk ten years in jail as they throw Columbus statue into Baltimore harbor just hours after he called them 'Nazis and terrorists' in July Fourth address as protests break out across the US, July 4, 2020

Email interview, Sean Walsh, spokesperson for the Daily Mail, Dec. 7, 2022

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Gabrielle Settles

No evidence of armed patrols at Georgia voting sites

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up